You may want to pause your live TV service before going on vacation. Platforms like YouTube TV impose strange rules that can affect frequent travelers, especially those who spend months away from home. These rules are often benign, but they can also ruin the streaming experience.
Unfortunately, every live TV service has its own set of rules. To make things easy, we’ll briefly explain how these services deal with travelers. We’ll also explain which services have the fewest restrictions.
For the most part, short vacations shouldn’t interrupt your live TV service. All live TV services let you stream when away from home. But for better or worse, there are a few caveats that might make your trip a bit harder.
Local channels offered by your live TV service will change depending on your location. But certain content, particularly NFL games, may not be available while you’re on vacation. And unfortunately, most live TV services won’t let you record local shows to DVR outside of your home. (That said, you can still access DVR recordings.)
The biggest drawback, at least for short trips, is that you may need to stream on a mobile device or laptop. Hulu with Live TV and DirecTV Stream don’t let you use “living room devices” when away from home.
Both YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV will pester you for taking a long vacation. They have aggressive rules that directly affect frequent travelers and families with two homes.
As explained by Google support, YouTube TV needs you to regularly update your “current playback area” while traveling. Otherwise, you can’t watch local channels. The service will completely remove your ability to watch local channels if you don’t log in from your “home area” once every three months—you can update your “home area,” but only twice per year.
Hulu with Live TV is even more aggressive. If you don’t access the service from your home network for 30 days, it simply stops working. You can change your home network four times a year, though. (And again, Hulu with Live TV only lets you stream on mobile devices outside your home.)
There are only two “easy” ways to get around these rules. You can leave a family member at home while you’re on vacation, or you can switch your “home area” to a friend’s house and let them use your live TV service.
If you don’t mind following a bunch of arbitrary rules, you can absolutely use YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV while on vacation. But if you want a more travel-friendly experience, you’ve got options.
Because of its relaxed rules, Sling TV is the best live TV service for frequent travelers. It doesn’t force you to stream on a mobile phone, and it doesn’t ask you to log in at home. You can even record local channels to DVR when traveling (though these local channels are determined by your location).
The fuboTV service is a close second. It keeps track of your “home area,” but it doesn’t enforce any weird rules if you’re away from home for too long. There’s just one oddity; when someone’s using fuboTV on a smart TV in your home, you’re forced to stream on a mobile device outside your home.
And oddly enough, DirecTV Steam is quite lax with its travel policy. You can use DirecTV Stream on three devices at a time when away from your “Home Network.” The only serious drawback is that DirecTV Stream doesn’t work on smart TVs or streaming sticks outside your home—you need to use a mobile device or laptop.
All major live TV services are exclusive to the United States. Because these services are geo-locked, you cannot access them when traveling abroad. (The only exception is fuboTV, which you can also access in Canada and Spain.)
Now, you can use a VPN to get around this geo-lock. A VPN allows you to spoof your IP address and location, effectively unlocking services that aren’t available in your area. People located in the United States could use a VPN to stream UK-exclusive content on the BBC website, for example.
But there are two problems with this workaround. First, live TV services regularly block VPN servers. Even if a VPN works with YouTube TV today, it may not work tomorrow. Unless you’re a total TV junkie, it’s probably not worth the effort.
And furthermore, YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV require home check-ins. If you don’t have someone staying at your home, these services will eventually give you some trouble.
If you’re traveling abroad, my suggestion is to simply pause your subscription. You’ll save some money, and more importantly, you’ll have more free time to enjoy your trip.